Yoga is a proven practice to strengthen both the mind and body, uniting movement and breath. It is a powerful tool and has been used for centuries as an alternative therapy and exercise method.
One of the joys of yoga is that it is extremely versatile and suitable for all. There are many different yoga styles, meaning, if you don’t enjoy one, chances are, there’s another style out there that you will enjoy.
If you’re just getting started with a yoga practice, start with a basic form that meets your needs and allow yourself to grow and change as you become more proficient.
Calm and Restorative Yoga Styles
Some people seek a yoga practice as a way to detoxify, soothe daily stresses, and become more centered.
If that is a goal you’re seeking then you may want to try a yoga style that is calm and restorative. The following styles may suit your needs:
This style focuses on utilizing gentle postures which are designed to move energy and prepare your mind and body for a calm state and meditation.
The name of this yoga style identifies the primary benefit – it’s designed to help repair and restore.
Restorative yoga can incorporate the use of props such as blankets and pillows to relax the body. You’ll move through about five different poses and you’ll hold them for extended periods of time.
Vini means adaptive and that’s exactly what this style of yoga is. It’s adaptive to your needs and goals. It’s ideal for people who are working with injuries or limitations.
Viniyoga is usually practiced in a small group or one on one so your instructor can create a practice that’s just right for you. Viniyoga emphasises a breath centred approach to yoga practice,
Powerful and Intense Yoga Styles
If you’re looking for a yoga style that challenges you, helps you build strength, and improves your fitness, then the following styles may best suit your needs:
Ashtanga (or Astanga) yoga is a series of yoga postures, taught in the same order. This style of yoga is physically demanding and you are likely to build up a sweat when practicing Ashtanga yoga.
It’s designed to build strength, flexibility and endurance. Each yogic movement is linked to a breath, making it similar to Vinyasa yoga.
Bikram is a relatively new form of yoga, where you practice postures in a studio heated to 40 degrees.
The idea of Bikram is that the heat will encourage you to stretch deeper as your muscles will be warm. You should be prepared to sweat a lot during a Bikram class.
Bikram yoga follows a series of 26 poses, always in the same sequence, similar to Ashtanga. The series of postures is, however, different to Ashtanga.
Bikram yoga provides a complete workout with poses that include strength, endurance, cardiovascular and flexibility.
Hot yoga is very similar to Bikram yoga, in that you are in an artificially heated studio. However, hot yoga does not necessarily follow a set series of movements in the same way that Bikram does.
Two Bikram classes should always be identical. Two Hot yoga classes, may well be different.
Power Yoga or Power Vinyasa
Power yoga is a physically demanding yoga style. The goal is to improve strength and flexibility. It’s also often practiced as hot yoga which means you’ll be in a room that’s around 100 degrees F. The goal with hot yoga is to detoxify – it can be great for weight loss.
Yoga Styles That Offer The Best of Both Worlds
You don’t have to choose one end of the spectrum or the other. There are many yoga styles that are designed to offer both mental benefits as well as physical benefits. They include:
Hatha yoga is a gentle, traditional form of yoga. Hatha is the foundation for most yoga styles. Traditional hatha is easy to learn and suitable to all fitness levels.
Generally, a Hatha yoga class is a great place for beginners to start, where you will learn a variety of basic yoga postures. Focus will be applied to breathing techniques and relaxation too.
You’ll enjoy both active poses which challenge you and help you increase your strength, flexibility, and endurance and you’ll enjoy restorative and calming poses as well.
Iyengar is one of the most popular types of yoga. The poses are active and they include the use of props which makes it great for beginners and advanced practitioners alike.
Iyengar yoga is great for people who suffer with an injury or postural issues. Iyengar teachers have to undergo extensive training, ensuring they have great knowledge of alignment and the human body.
Iyengar is a gentle, slow paced class, however it is still challenging to perfectly hold asanas for a continued amount of time. You will usually find lots of props in an Iyengar yoga studio.
Vinyasa yoga is somewhere between Ashtanga and Hatha yoga, in that it is a fluid class. It is usually well choreographed to make transitions between asanas smooth. The classes are varied, and more testing than Hatha yoga.
New Yoga Styles
These styles are just the beginning. There are always new slants and variations coming onto the market, such as fitness yoga, broga and PiYo.
Styles such as fitness yoga, power yoga and anti-gravity yoga are excellent ways to enhance weight loss.
Then there’s prenatal yoga for those who are pregnant or just had a baby. There’s yoga for people who want to tap into their creative side and yoga for those who are competitive.
It is worth searching to find a class which suits your needs and preferences.